Words by Mitch Spearing
Photos by Fi Stimpson Photography
For quite a few months now I’ve been threatening to turn up at a gig that Fi was attending. When she told me that she had played a part in arranging to get Mark Morriss to play at a venue in her local town, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Had I known I’d be asked to review it, I might have paid more attention to the song order and content both artists played, rather than simply turning up and enjoying what turned out to be a very pleasant evening.
Let’s start with the venue. The Voodoo Lounge, downstairs at Mama Liz’s in Stamford… I had only been to Stamford once before on a dreary Sunday afternoon about 25 or so years ago where I recall visiting an antiques fair. Someone I spoke to on Saturday evening told me that Stamford itself hadn’t changed much!
The Voodoo Lounge is a cellar bar which to me was reminiscent of downstairs at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith, if anyone has ever been, or remembers it… that was certainly somewhere that I spent many a drunken Saturday night before dashing to get the last train home. But anyway, I digress. The staff at the venue were friendly and bar prices seemed reasonable for the couple of drinks I had.
The first act up for the evening was a fella called Richard Gombault. I was told that he was local and that in a previous life he had been in a band called Midget. His set was entertaining with a little bit of banter with the crowd.
He did make mention of being in Midget, and played a song which he said was a hit of theirs in Japan, which he’d had to extend for the purposes of a solo play. He impressed me enough to enquire with Fi as to who he was, so that I could try and find out if he any music available on that well-known fruit based online store.
The Reflection Stared
Twice as Shy
Some Stars Never Fade
God Only Knows (very good beach boys cover)
All Fall Down
Richard was well received and seemed comfortable playing in front of this type of audience.
We didn’t have to wait long before Mark took to the stage. I’m sure that most of you will know Mark as the lead singer of The Bluetones, and possibly like me, know very little of his solo work.
If you attended hoping for a succession of the better known Bluetones songs, you would be disappointed. If you went with an open mind, then in my opinion, you would have left feeling happy with what you had seen and looking forward to the next time you might get to see Mark play.
I had seen Mark play with the Bluetones a couple of times before and knew that he was an excellent front man. What I didn’t know was how good he was with his own ability to play guitar, and keep the audience amused with a witty dialogue throughout the whole show.
As the evening went on, it was obvious that Mark was enjoying himself, but I did find myself wondering where he felt more at home… here, on a small stage playing to a crowd of probably no more than 100… Or the previous Saturday evening, playing in front of a few thousand when The Bluetones were a support act for The Happy Mondays at the Derby Arena.
One little tip, should you decide to go and see Mark play, is that if you buy him a drink (I believe Jack Daniels and coke is his tipple of choice…) you might even get to request a song. We got treated to half a version of “Benny and the Jets” after a young lady in the crowd handed him a drink.
Highlights for me were half a version of “Slight Return” done in a reggae styley and a song that I think was called “Travelodge Breakfast in a Bag” which, although short on lyrics, was what Mark said it was really like for a solo artist living life on the road.
Summing up, Mark is very good value and provides an enjoyable evening’s entertainment… Whether he uses the same stories every night, or whether he has a locker full of tales that he can draw on depending on the time /venue /crowd, I don’t know. I guess I’ll get to find that out the next time I see him. The obligatory encore was taken as a request from the crowd though I suspect it was going to be played anyway, once it had been called out.
Digging a Hole
It’s Hard to be Good All the Time
This is the Lie (and That’s the Truth)
Keep the Home Fires Burning
Cut Some Rug
Sleazy Bed Track